Married but dating other people: Meet the couples re-defining modern marriage.

Like so many love stories do, Abbey and Liam’s started with a meet-cute. 

While Liam was playing in a band at uni, he spotted a gorgeous blonde woman in the crowd and made a mental note to speak with her after the gig. But when he got off stage, she was nowhere to be found. As luck would have it, Abbey then reached out over Facebook (ahh, those were the days) to tell Liam she loved his show and they caught up for coffee. 

Fast forward 12 years and the Canberra-based couple are married, run a business together and have a five-year-old son. They are the epitome of a happy, suburban family. 

They also regularly date and sleep with other people. 

Yes, Abbey, 35, and Liam, 33, are part of a growing number of couples choosing to be non-monogamous and seek romantic connections outside their marriage - with the full approval of their spouse. 

"The reason we decided to open up our relationship wasn’t because we necessarily wanted to go and be with other people, we were actually really into the idea of each other being with other people," Abbey tells Mamamia. 

"It’s a real contradiction to what people can often think when they think about non- monogamous relationships. They think there might be something wrong and you need to step out of your relationship, but for me, I wasn’t afraid to face the reality that the thought of my husband being with someone else actually appealed to me."

Neither Abbey nor Liam can even remember who suggested the idea first. But they had been together for two years and were living in New York (where there is a big non-monogamous "scene") when they decided to explore the concept with one of Abbey’s friends. 


"She was really open to the thought of being with us, she had had other non-monogamous experiences before so we had a lot of discussions and had a lot of talk about boundaries," Abbey tells Mamamia

The biggest misconception, Abbey says, is that it is a "free for all" and that non-monogamous people are jumping into bed with each other more often than they wash their pyjamas. 

"It took about 10 months before we opened our relationship... we eased into it and we started having really awesome experiences with her that felt really positive for the three of us while maintaining a friendship alongside that," Abbey says. 

"We had full transparency from the beginning, we didn’t message people individually, everything in those early stages was very shared."

Abbey and Liam have been non-monogamous for 10 years, and married for nine years. Image: Evolving Love Project. 


They then started seeing other people separately whenever they felt a connection, always meeting for casual drink or dinner before pursuing anything further. 

After a year of being non-monogamous, in 2015, Abbey and Liam did something that might surprise people —  they got married. 

While they may have given each other a cheeky wink at the part in the vows about forsaking all others, they didn’t take the commitment lightly. 

"To me a marriage is about security and commitment and somebody to journey through life with and somebody to be a parent with, and someone to have that deep, emotional bond with and I believe that can happen without sexual fidelity," Abbey says. 

Having a child together then felt like the next natural step. 

"We always knew we wanted to be parents, we love children so for us it was very much a case that our non-monogamous life can coexist alongside being parents, they don’t impact or effect each other," Abbey says. 

"There’s a lot of different ways people practise non-monogamy - some people are very polyamorous and they have multiple partners in their day-to-day life but Liam and I aren’t like that.


"Our son isn’t aware of our non-monogamy, but as he gets older, he can make his own relationship decisions. As far as our parenting goes, there’s no impact on him whatsoever, he’s always with Liam, myself or his two grandmothers."

Three years ago, Abbey then started writing about the philosophies and concepts around non-monogamy on her website and Instagram account, Evolving Love Project. 

She and Liam have now grown a community of people who are either already non-monogamous or interested in it, and they host private conversation evenings each month for people who are genuinely curious. 

But going public about their relationship dynamic has also meant facing criticism from people who are concerned about how their choices may affect their son - a concern that Abbey and Liam say is completely unfounded. 

“Monogamous people aren’t sitting around at the breakfast table telling their children the ins and outs of their intimate relationship, it’s exactly the same thing,” Abbey says.

"Our son is the heart of our family…I’m there at school drop-off and pick up, we’re a very happy family and love going bushwalking together, we go on family bike rides. Of course he is my priority. But I can also take some time that is just for myself as well when we can fit it into our schedule."

Image: Evolving Love Project. 


Contrary to the misconceptions of sex parties or constant partner swapping in the non-monogamous community, Abbey and Liam also told Mamamia’s No Filter podcast they are “very vanilla” in many ways. 

"On the weekends we’re having picnics with our monogamous friends, we’re at kids' birthday parties, we’re with family," Abbey told No Filter host, Kate Langbroek. 

"At the moment we don’t have other set partners, it might be months between seeing someone who is a lover, because we are busy, we’re parents, we have jobs, we have friends, we have families, we have priorities."

Without doubt, the most common reaction non-monogamous couples hear from people who have never explored the concept is: "I could never do that, I’d be too jealous."


And Abbey says it’s a very natural response, because non-monogamy can only work successfully if both partners experience what’s known as "compersion". 

Compersion is the feeling of happiness, joy or even a sexual arousal of your partner experiencing joy and happiness and pleasure from someone else. 

"For me it’s a very loving expression, so instead of feeling jealous of my husband going on a date with someone else, I’m excited for him and really curious about his experience, I can’t wait to reconnect with him again," Abbey explains. 

"So if you don’t have compersion, you’re only left with jealousy so why would anyone bother? It is absolutely not for everybody. Without compersion, non-monogamy doesn’t make sense at all."

There is also a common misconception that for heterosexual couples, the "lifestyle" is driven by the desire of the male partner. 

But for Brooke*, 36, it was actually her husband Tom* who took some convincing. 

"His initial reaction was, 'no I definitely don’t think that would be something that I’d be interested in'," Brooke tells Mamamia

Brooke had been married to Tom for around four years and they had a two-year-old son when she started reading Abbey’s blog (they knew each other from university) and became fascinated by the concept. 

"It was a slow thing… I just told him I was interested in the concept and wanted him to have a read and see what he thought," Brooke explains. 


"It was a good thing to be able to admit initially that I was sometimes attracted to other people and that doesn’t mean I don’t love my husband, and he said the same thing."

Listen to the full No Filter conversation with Kate Langbroek here. Post continues below.

Choosing to attend one of Abbey and Liam’s conversation evenings in Canberra, they mostly wanted to understand how other parents balanced dating with family commitments and how they went about finding other people who were genuinely interested in the concept. 

It was a year before they decided to take the plunge and find sexual partners through dating apps. 

Three years in, and Tom now has a regular partner he sees outside the family home. Brooke has what’s called a "comet partner" - which is someone who lives interstate so they only see each other every so often when he visits Canberra for work and they will stay at a hotel together. 

"There needs to be a really strong bond and level of trust to be able to do this and maintain your relationship, you have to talk through a lot of things and definitely come out stronger so long as you keep up the communication. I’m happy in my marriage to be really happy for my partner to go and enjoy dates and not be scared that he doesn’t want to be with me," Brooke says. 

And just like any family with children, it all happens with the help of a shared calendar. 

"Generally we have two nights a week each which is our time to do an exercise class or go to a gig or go on a date," Brooke says. 


"Then on weekends we spend that time as a family, but of course there’s flexibility. We are really focused on having a really good balance so we both work part time so we can both have one full day each with our son because he’s still in preschool, but even when he starts primary school we’re both still planning to stay part time so that’s our day to get our personal admin done so we can have the weekends free to spend as a family unit."

But despite feeling very settled and content, their sexual choices are something they keep private from their family and friends. 

"My fear of sharing it with people who are more conservative is that they might think it’s not good for our son, but I’m sure generally monogamous parents don’t talk to their child about their sex life and we’re not going to do that either." 

While exact figures are not known, a recent survey of 50,000 Australians found 1.4 per cent admitted to being in open relationships - a figure that is undoubtedly higher as many still experience shame or fear judgement from their community. 

For Sarah* and her husband John*, non-monogamy is something they’ve enjoyed since they first met five years ago but they keep their catch ups "discreet". 

While they have had experiences with other couples, their preferred dynamic is to bring in another female to their relationship when there’s a natural chemistry and connection. 

"For us it’s always been together. I would be quite comfortable with him dating separately but it just hasn’t happened for us as a couple," Sarah tells Mamamia. 


While Sarah has two children, aged nine and 12, from a previous relationship, the couple also now have a two-year-old which naturally means their availability and energy levels have waned. 

"Toddler life has taken over since we had the little one, we find that we’re not quite as readily available which is absolutely fine for us, it was always about leaning into what feels right, we might just catch up with someone sporadically versus when we had more availability when the older kids were at their dad's house and we had date night to engage and connect with people," she said. 

"We’re not going to force anything if we’re not feeling it."

What these three couples - who are all parents - have in common is that they don’t see their sexual choices as something that could harm their relationship or see them headed for divorce, but something that brings them closer. 

As Abbey says: "The health of a relationship really comes down to the people, it's kind of irrelevant what the structure is, whether that’s a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship. Because you can have people who are really unethical in monogamous relationships and you can have people who are really kind and loving in open relationships and the other way around, it really comes down to the individual people."

You can hear more from Abbey here

*Names have been changed. 

Feature Image: Supplied.